Tag: Mike McNessor

It took a no-holds-barred restoration to turn a patched-up 1929 Model A Standard Coupe into a prize winner – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

It took a no-holds-barred restoration to turn a patched-up 1929 Model A Standard Coupe into a prize winner – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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Photography by Matt Litwin; Restoration Photography by Bruce LeFebvre

The Ford Model A’s good looks and low price of admission attracted millions of buyers before and after World War II. In later postwar years, those same qualities made the A one of the world’s most popular collector cars.

As a restoration project, you can’t beat a Model A: They’re simple, they’re supported by a vast network of specialists, and parts are widely available. That’s why hobbyists fixed ’em up decades ago and why many of those same Model A’s are being restored a second or third time by hobbyists today.

Here’s our feature car, circa-2012, as found on eBay by owner Bruce LeFebvre. The exterior looked solid, but the green paint was concealing a lot of makeshift body repair work.

Bruce LeFebvre, the owner/restorer of this month’s stunning Bonnie Gray and Chelsea Blue 1929 Model A Standard Coupe, is a history buff and had always admired the Model A’s styling. “They look cool,” he says. “And Henry Ford was a fascinating character who really put America on wheels.”

Bruce wasn’t what you would call a Model A expert when he started shopping for one of his own about a decade ago, but over the course of this project, he gained a lot of knowledge.

“I didn’t know my ass from my elbow about Model A’s, but I knew I wanted one,” he says. “I saw one online located in a town called Peculiar, Missouri—so I bought it for $6,500, then my friend Roger Parrott and I spent almost 10 days going out and back to get it.”

The coupe’s four-cylinder was treated to a rebuild and pressed back into service. A breakerless ignition stands in for the points and condenser, inside the stock distributor. Period accessory touches include a mount for the oil can and an Auto Lite heater.

Bruce’s reasonably priced, online auction fi nd was a nice-looking car, though maybe a little worn and in need of attention. It had already been converted to hydraulic brakes —a selling point and something which would’ve been on Bruce’s to-do list anyway. Outside, the car wore aged green paint and inside there was what looked like water stains on the upholstery. Some fresh interior pieces, some paint, and some general sprucing should have brought it back to like-new condition — or so Bruce thought. But once back at his shop in Connecticut, a teardown revealed a lot of hidden rust, wood rot, and some hasty body repairs, too.

“When I first saw the car, it didn’t look bad at all,” Bruce says. “But once we started taking it apart—we took the headliner out, the seats out, and the side panels —you could see it was packed with body filler and there was haphazard fiberglass work that looked like bandages holding it together

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The 5.2-liter Voodoo V-8 Made Magic in the Modern Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350R –

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A free-flowing intake and heads, aggressive cams and high compression did a lot of heavy lifting while the exotic flat-plane crank grabbed headlines and helped make lyrical exhaust sounds


The engine produced 526 naturally aspirated horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 429 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm, while making beautiful music up to an 8,000-plus rpm redline. At the heart of its howling exhaust note was a flat-plane crankshaft — so called because its connecting rod journals (and weights) were positioned 180-degrees opposite of each other, instead of at 90-degree intervals like the cross-plane design used in most American V-8s. Flat-plane cranks are not new or unusual. Four-cylinder engines have them and Cadillac’s 314 V-8, which debuted in 1915, used one.
The flat-plane crankshaft from Ford’s 5.2-liter Voodoo V-8.

In theory, the flat-plane design delivers a V-8 with less reciprocating mass, and superior breathing, which should make an engine lighter, more compact and capable of building rpms very quickly. But it also delivers a lot of what’s known as “secondary vibration” and that paint-shaker quality increases in proportion to the size of the pistons and the speed that those pistons are moving. In a race car, it’s a reasonable tradeoff – especially if there’s a performance advantage to be gained. In a 21st-century street car, stickering north of $60,000, customers are likely to complain about shaking steering wheels, buzzing shifters, blurry rearview mirrors, etc. So, Ford incorporated bits on the GT350 that you wouldn’t find on a race car, like exhaust dampers and a dual-mass flywheel, to help smooth things out.

While the Voodoo’s flat-plane crankshaft grabbed all the headlines, this engine would’ve made tremendous horsepower if it had been built with a cross-plane crank. It inhaled through an 87-millimeter throttle body, the largest ever used on a Ford engine. The cams were aggressive, producing .55 inches of lift with 270 degrees duration and using low-friction roller followers to bump the valves. Compression is key to making power and, with a lofty 12:1 compression ratio, the Voodoo had plenty.

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Chevrolet’s Mark IV LS6 454 Made the 1970 Chevelle (and El Camino) SS, Super – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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More than 50 years on, the 454 is still the big Kahuna—the largest displacement engine ever bolted into a regular production Chevrolet passenger car. It’s lived a long, useful life since its 1970 model-year introduction, powering trucks, boats, generators, race cars of every sort, and more.

Chevrolet will sell you a new 454 today, ready to run, like the 454 HO with 438 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque or the ZZ454 with aluminum heads, rated at 469 hp and 519 lb-ft of torque. These are technically “Gen VI” engines – the original 454 was designated Mark IV. The new engines have four-bolt mains and forged cranks and rods like the best of the originals, but are updated with roller camshafts and one-piece rear main seals. They’re from the same family as the ZZ427 that Hemmings Editor in Chief Terry McGean installed in Hemmings’ 1969 Chevelle SS396 convertible.

With a domed hood, the LS6 could’ve been topped with either a dual-snorkel or open-element air cleaner.

The 1970 LS6 454, factory rated at 450 hp, was exclusive to the Chevelle and the El Camino. It not only gave Chevrolet intermediates more power than the Corvette that year, it was the most powerful engine those cars would ever have. Part of the LS6’s charm was that it wasn’t exotic, but made effortless horsepower and torque. The basic recipe included a four-bolt main block; 11.25:1 compression; rectangle-port heads with 2.19-inch intake and 1.88 exhaust valves; an aggressive mechanical cam, shared with other high-performance big-blocks; and a low-rise aluminum intake topped with a 780-cfm Holley. In ’71 the 365-hp LS5 was the top engine offering in the Chevelle, while Corvette gained an LS6 engine option rated at 425 hp and topped with aluminum heads — thus putting Chevrolet’s sports car back on top of the performance lineup. Interestingly, factory literature shows a 425-hp LS6 454 (with iron heads) as an option for the ’71 Chevelle, but none were sold.

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1979 Pontiac Trans Am 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Buyer’s Guide – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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The late Roger Ebert wasn’t pulling punches when he called Smokey and the Bandit II, “a mess.” “There is no need for this movie,” the Pulitzer-winning Chicago Sun-Times film critic wrote in his 1980 review. “That’s true of most sequels, but it’s especially true of Smokey and the Bandit II, which is basically just the original movie, done again, not as well.

“Something similar could be said about one of the stars of that film: the turbo-charged 1980 Trans Am. It was basically the original 1977 Special Edition Trans Am, done again, but from a raw performance standpoint, not as well. Pontiac’s back was against the wall in ’80 as it faced new government fuel mileage standards that the T/A’s thumping 400-cu.in V-8 couldn’t comply with (any more than the Bandit could comply with Sheriff Justice).

So, the Excitement Division’s solution was to add a turbocharger to a carbureted 301-cu.in V-8 that was topped with some of the most restrictive cylinder heads ever bolted to a Trans Am engine. With a manual transmission and a low axle ratio, the little engine might have had a fighting chance, but the turbo’d 301 was paired only with an automatic and a 3.08:1 gear set. This was not a recipe for world-beating (or an Oscar-winning) performance. In California, the news was worse for Pontiac purists: Trans Ams in the Golden State were powered by a Chevrolet engine—the 305. Adding insult to injury, none of the V-8s could be paired with a manual transmission in ’80.

But just before the party ended, Pontiac served up one last round of the top-shelf stuff and called it “The 10th Anniversary Limited Edition” Trans Am. Along with its special paint treatment, graphics, wheels, and more, this ’79 Trans Am would be among the last offered with the “T/A 6.6” 400 engine. As a collectible car from the 1970s, the anniversary Trans Am stands out in terms of desirability and value. The 400 version, sold exclusively with a Borg-Warner Super T-10 four-speed manual, is the scarcest, and typically commands the most money.

Of the 7,500 anniversary cars built, a scant 1,817 had the 400/T-10 combo, while the remaining 5,683 were built with the “6.6 Litre” Oldsmobile 403 and a Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 automatic. Popular price guides tack on a premium for the 400 and four-speed powertrain pairing and currently value a 400, four-speed anniversary edition T/A at $30,000 on the low side, $96,000 on the high end, with an average of $57,000. All of the anniversary Trans Ams were loaded with virtually every option and stickered north of $10,000 when new. That was big money in 1979, but adjusted for inflation, amounts to about $38,000 today—right around the price of a new Chevrolet Camaro 1SS.

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A Discreetly Modified 1950 International L-110 Pickup That Has Staying Power – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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More than three decades have passed since International Harvester was broken apart and sold, but the once-great American manufacturer refuses to fade away. The company’s black and red, “man on a tractor” IH logo and signature bright red Farmall paint live on today aboard Case IH agricultural equipment. International heavy trucks live on as well under parent company Navistar, and the company’s Integrated Coach school buses can trace their lineage back to International.

International light trucks have not fared quite as well, however. The pickups were phased out in 1975 as IH struggled to maintain its core businesses. The rugged Scout utility reached the end of the trail in 1980 as IH was in its death throes. Fortunately, scores of those vehicles are kept alive today by legions of International enthusiasts who recognize a classic design when they see one.

One of those people is Jim Martin, owner, rescuer, and proud caretaker of this feature truck, a 1950 International L-110. The truck was sitting idle in Redlands, California, back in 2006 when Jim’s stepson spotted it.

“He called me and asked if I would be interested in rebuilding a truck,” Jim says. “I had just finished my 1956 Chevrolet, but he kept telling me that I really needed to come and see this special truck

.”With his son along for the ride, Jim went to check out the old pickup that had so captivated his stepson. What he found was a complete vehicle that needed attention.

“The owner said it ran about five years earlier, but his dad had cut all the wires in it, and he hadn’t tried to start it since,” Jim says.

With a fresh six-volt battery and a few squirts of starting fluid, the International’s inline-six came to life and a deal was struck.

“I asked him the price and he replied, ‘I’ll sell it to you for $2,500, but you can’t part it out.’

“Jim agreed to the terms and promised he’d put the International back to good-as-new condition.”At this point, I had a new project!” Jim says.

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1973-’87 Chevrolet Pickup Buyer’s Guide – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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Rounding out some finer points of the popular “square body” haulers

There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years around 1973-’87 Chevrolet light trucks (and their GMC counterparts), aka “square bodies.” Whatever you choose to call them, these boxy trucks are popular because they’re widely available at affordable prices, there’s an abundant parts supply, they’re simple to work on, and they’re a blank slate for modifications

.The current trendiness of 1973-’87 Chevrolet light trucks is inspiring this issue’s buyer’s guide, but it’s probably overdue. While values have been on the upswing—we’ve seen some examples fetch breathtaking amounts at auction—with more than 10 million built, these trucks are still plentiful.

When Chevrolet’s C/K light trucks broke cover for the ’73 model year, they sported a new, more modern-looking profile, with a hood that was flush with the tops of the fenders and doors that were set into the trucks’ roofline. (To clarify: “C” for two-wheel drive, “K” for four-wheel drive, and in ’87 the nomenclature changed for one year on full-size pickups to “R” for two-wheel drive and “V” for four-wheel drive.) A four-door crew-cab model was also introduced as a $1,000 option on 1- and ¾-ton trucks.

Under the skin, updates from the 1967-’72 series included a switch from standard rear coil to leaf springs on two-wheel-drive ½- and ¾-ton trucks, longer front leaf springs and a standard front stabilizer bar on four-wheel-drives, full-time four-wheel drive, and an energy-absorbing steering column. The 454-cu.in. V-8 was offered for the first time, and the fuel tank was moved from inside the cab to outside the frame rails.

1976 C10 fleetside with the Silverado package

It was that last change that would embroil these trucks in controversy and lead to accidental deaths, a federal investigation, millions in court settlement costs, and a nationwide class action lawsuit. Long after the last of these trucks had left showrooms, their side-saddle tank design received a double dose of national media attention. First, in 1992, NBC’s news series Dateline aired a segment that showed a GM truck exploding when it was T-boned by a speeding Chevrolet Citation. Subsequently, Dateline retracted the segment and admitted that it had rigged the truck with incendiary devices to make it explode. But, in 1995, GM agreed to a $600-million settlement over the sidesaddle tanks. As part of the deal, owners of 1973-’87 GM light trucks were issued $1,000 rebates toward the purchase of a new GM vehicle.

Today, 1973-’87 GM light trucks make great projects and excellent work or play rigs. Their popularity means you might pay more for good examples as time marches on, but it also means a better return on investment. Due to the wide range of this guide, it’s a little bit general in some areas. For specific year and model details, go to gmheritagecenter.com, where every brochure from 1973-’87 is available for download, as are detailed information packets with dimensions, options, specifications, and more. That said, if you’re considering one of these hardworking haulers, here are some points to be aware of.

Silverado (left), which was the top trim offering with available cloth seats, carpeting, and more; Scottsdale was a step up from base and included vinyl upholstery, full-depth foam seat, and interior courtesy lighting.

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Buyer’s Guide: The plentiful, affordable, 5.0-powered 1987-93 Ford Mustang – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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A new Mustang GT hit the ground galloping in 1982 and Ford shouted its return with the slogan: “The Boss is Back!” Hitching the Boss legend to this new pony made good marketing sense, but the Fox was no retro-themed throwback. It would go on to inspire a new generation of enthusiasts and launch dedicated magazines and websites, as well as become a darling of the aftermarket.

Old-school, American rear-drive performance mounted a comeback in the 1980s, ushered in by cars like the Buick Grand National, the Chevrolet Monte Carlos SS, and the Camaro IROC-Z. But, when new, these vehicles were priced out of reach of many young people on entry-level salaries. Also, the GM contingent offered manual transmissions only as exceptions rather than the rule.

Not so the 5.0. Ford priced the Mustang GT affordably and, beginning in 1983, offered a real-deal Borg-Warner T-5 fives-peed manual transmission. For ’86, Ford dumped the Holley carburetor and made multiport fuel injection plus a roller camshaft standard—exotic parts for a low-dollar production car back then.

While Chevrolet charged a premium for all the good stuff, Ford lowered the price by offering the el-cheapo LX with a 5.0 powertrain. Not only was it less expensive, but the notch-window body style, exclusive to the LX line, was lighter than the hatchback/convertible GT.

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How the Corvette’s chassis evolved over more than 60 years – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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Yes, the Corvette is about style and horsepower. But the car’s handling is what set the stage for all of those ‘Vette versus Porsche 911 magazine covers over the years. No matter what vintage, the Corvette was built with an eye toward being the best-driving sports car for the buck that it could possibly be. So, let’s put aside the fiberglass, the engines, and everything else for just a moment and look at how the Corvette’s underpinnings have evolved over the years.

Generation 1: 1953-’62 If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll find plenty to like under the first-generation Corvette. The chassis is an adaptation of Chevrolet’s 1949-’54 cars, but it soldiered on until the ’63 redesign—even after all other Chevrolet automobile front ends were updated in ’55. The earliest Corvettes bounced on front coil springs with upper and lower control arms bolstered by a stabilizer bar. While that was fairly cutting edge by prewar or immediate-postwar standards, it still used kingpins to mount the spindles, limiting the range of motion and also making accurate front end alignment tricky. Steering was accomplished by a worm-and-sector style box with a pitman arm attached to a drag link that connected to a third arm. The third arm then, in turn, moved the tie rods that turned the spindles. While the setup wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t as precise or smooth as you might expect from a sports car, even by 1950s standards. The first Corvettes also had the distinction of being the only ones equipped with a solid rear axle. The Corvette rear used a removable third member like Chevrolet passenger cars through 1964, and the housing was hung from longitudinal leaf springs with direct double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers. While not as exotic as an independent axle, it was a simple, durable, and infinitely rebuildable setup. The foundation for the original Corvette chassis was a sturdy perimeter frame with boxed rails and a massive X-member tying the two sides together. This was a common approach to eliminating chassis flex in an open-top car, but it added weight.

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Blue Collar Beauty – 1937 Hudson Terraplane – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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Classic Truck: 1937 Hudson Terraplane

Terraplane’s Cab Pickup Express might look a little too jaunty for the job site but, by 1937 standards, this was a stout light truck. If you glanced under the rear of a Series 70, and longer wheelbase Series 78 Terraplane commercial rig, you’d see a thick pair of leaf springs—15 leaves in both—that lent these trucks a hefty ¾-ton rating.

You’d also notice the sturdy “Double Drop 2-X” frame—it was the same design used in Terraplane (as well as Hudson) cars, but it looked purpose-built for hauling. A pair of boxed side rails—71/8 inches deep at their widest point between the axles—were tied together with a massive X-shaped member in the center and a smaller X-member in front. There were also three heavy-duty crossmembers, including a new one for the 1937 model year, added at the rear kickup. The Double Drop 2-X frame was riveted together, while the boxed sections of the rails were welded in place with 142 welds. For added rigidity, the vehicles’ floors were bolted to the frames at multiple points in what Terraplane called “Monobilt” construction.

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Buyer’s Guide: 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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A big-block-powered hybrid hauler examined

El Caminos have taken a beating on the internet over the past 20 years as a lazy punchline for mullet jokes. But we wonder: How many snarky car pundits have ever actually driven a big-block powered El Camino? They’d likely be impressed by the power—even on a short trip to the coffee bar to write that day’s clickbait listicle. When the chassis is in good condition, 1968-’72 El Caminos aren’t a chore to drive, either. They have surprisingly modern road manners.

Not that we’re biased or hold grudges, but just to be clear, in SS trim, an El Camino is not the automotive equivalent of a mullet. (All business in the front and a party in the back! Ha!) It’s actually all business in the back where you can haul stuff (repair parts for cars favored by bloggers, for instance), and a party in the front, where the gas pedal and Mark IV engine coexist in tire-burning harmony.

As of this writing, we counted more than two dozen 1970 El Caminos on Hemmings.com awaiting adoption. Prices ranged from $5,200 for a roller/project with new quarters (and an owner-described “cheap paint job”) up to $55,000 for what appeared to be a show-ready SS 396. Literally something for every budget.

Read the guide here